November 20-23, 2014

JW Marriott Indianapolis Hotel, Indianapolis, Indiana


Program Chairs:

Odile Cazenave, Boston University
Clifton Crais, Emory University 

Violence has long been at the center of African Studies.  We encounter its presence whether we study conflict, poverty or representations of the continent and its diaspora in literature, media, and popular opinion.  Africa has seen protracted conflicts as well as creative efforts at reconstruction and reconciliation that offer the wider world models of working through traumatic pasts.  Scholars across disciplines have called attention to the importance of understanding violence and the changing nature of conflict as well as the efforts of people, communities and organizations to rebuild civil society, including novel forms of witnessing and memorialization.  They have called for the study of forms of conflict generated by extractive industries, non-governmental actors, and neoliberal economic policies.  And, crucially, they have raised powerful questions around the study of the structural (silent) violence of poverty, including its relationship to military conflict and to the broader forces shaping the continent.

The 57th Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association offers a unique opportunity for scholars across diverse fields to critically examine the locations of violence in Africa’s past, present and future, and the creative responses to these forms and sites of violence, including new opportunities for reconstruction.  We look forward to panels exploring the ways in which violence has been conceptualized, from Fanonian ideas of revolutionary resistance to genocide, and the forms of responses these may have generated in and outside the African continent; the emergence of new types and patterns of violence, including terrorism, and their connection to local, regional, and global forces; and to reflect on the narratives and other forms of artistic expression that have emerged from these times and how these may have evolved over the years.

We might consider how people have coped, and continue to cope, with the realities of trauma and poverty in everyday life, including the role of humor or of love following times of crisis.  We might explore as well the long-term economic, political, social, and epidemiological consequences of conflict and dislocation. How do we write the history and anthropology of what is often presented as structural violence in Africa, particularly in the media?  And how might we bring into closer conversation the punctuated violence of war and other forms of conflict with that of everyday life, particularly inadequate access to medical care and other resources?

Panelists might examine gender, generation and violence, including domestic violence.  Child soldiers and the widespread rape of women (as well as children and men) have become dominant images of conflict in Africa, images that testify to brutal conditions but also belie more complicated worlds.  We might consider those seldom-explored and discussed complications and how engagement with them may invite us to reconsider issues such as violence and identity, as well as the politics of representation, including media coverage.

Theorists writing on violence have observed that it can be destructive and productive or constitutive, often simultaneously.  We encourage panels that reflect on and engage with this conundrum.  We are particularly encouraged by work that moves across the temporal divides that so often organize knowledge on Africa’s past and present.

The state and violence are perennial topics, violence and the environment less so.  The annual meeting offers opportunities to think about Africa’s environmental past and present, and in ways that explicitly engage with economic and political change, including the state in Africa, but also the role of multinational corporations and other non-governmental actors.

We might also think about how our varied disciplines have discussed and represented violence, the ways knowledge on violence and theoretical approaches to violence have been created, circulated, and authorized, and their relationship to representations of violence in art and public culture.

Finally, but critically, we should consider what happens after violence, the resilience and creativity of people in their everyday lives, the practices and politics of reconciliation, the efforts of groups to rebuild communities, especially the work of women and youth, the role of diasporic communities, and the challenges of building peace where there has been protracted conflict.

We encourage panels, roundtable and paper submissions on the meeting theme that involve practitioners, artists, and scholars across all disciplines:

  1. The violence of everyday life
  2. Gender, family, youth and violence
  3. Health, healing, and violence
  4. Violence and economic systems, including economic policies such as neoliberalism and the emergence of new forms of economic exploitation
  5. Political violence, the state, and global forces
  6. New patterns of violence and conflict
  7. Histories and ethnographies of human rights, humanitarian intervention, and social movements
  8. Refugees and returnees, the role of diasporas, and the effects of violence on linguistic communities
  9. Making peace, including justice, reconciliation and reconstruction
  10. Culture and representation

Proposals are also invited for general themes:

  1. History
  2. Music, Performance and Visual Culture
  3. Media
  4. Literature
  5. Religion and Spirituality
  6. Education
  7. Environment
  8. Political Economy and Economics
  9. Policy and Politics
  10. Agriculture
  11. Special Topics

2014 Proposal Submission Guidelines

For general questions regarding the meeting and/or registration please contact [email protected] For questions regarding the submission process, guidelines, or program theme please contact [email protected]